Clarence Cup win helps Rangers focus firmly on title challenge
St Pat's YM 1 Ards Rangers 3 - Clarence Cup
Ards Rangers booked their place in the last 16 of the Clarence Cup with a fairly comfortable 3-1 victory over St Pat’s YM on Saturday... but as soon as it was secure, manager Lee Forsythe’s thoughts immediately turned to their next game.
This forthcoming weekend is arguably the most decisive in the Drome Park mens’ season, with the second-placed club due to travel to Premier Division leaders Drumaness Mils. Despite losing 2-1 when the clubs last met five weeks ago, a win for Rangers would take them two points clear at the summit, albeit with three games in hand.
And after a run of six league wins out of the last seven games, Forsythe knows his team have pulled themselves back into the title reckoning, and that they must keep winning to continue to make a fight of it.
He said: “It’s a massive game. There is always a chance, although obviously even if we do get a result against Drumaness
“Winning six out of seven isn’t easy in this league, but it was our start to the season that has done the damage. We were poor over the first couple of months, but that is always going to be the case when you lose so many players and change so many faces.
“The important thing is that we hold onto the team we have now, and give ourselves something to build on for next season.”
The Ards Rangers gaffer also stressed that his team had been far from their best on this outing, and the fact that they only produced one decent opportunity in the entire first half was evidence of this. Happily for them, it led to a goal.
With just four minutes on the clock, Jonny Roy caught the ball sweet on the volley from a Jonny Hall throw-in, and while it was kept out by Paul Fisher, the St Pat’s keeper was only able to parry it to Daryll Kernohan, who turned it inside the far post from close to the by-line. There were some calls for offside, but these were waved away by referee John McKnight.
Despite the lack of early chances falling Rangers’ way, the same could be said for St Pat’s, who only tested David Harrison twice in the opening half hour – a clean volley from Joe Thompson and a bullet header from James Moore, but the visiting goalkeeper dealt well with both.
Rangers were proving to be well organised at the back, and even on the rare occasion they suffered a defensive lapse, they were still able to rectify the situation. In one such example, after being played through by Kevin Briggs, Thompson’s 33 minute shot on target was intercepted by the tireless Willy McBurney, before it was chested out for a corner.
Both teams re-emerged after the break knowing that the game was still up for grabs, and set about trying to win it. However, both continued to struggle to hit the target, with Moore chipping a free kick over the bar, and Hall doing the same as he nipped in to capitalise on some sluggish St Pat’s defending.
Ards Rangers did eventually take a step closer to victory however, with a second goal in the 64 minute. When Gary Sharratt sent Hall free for a clear opportunity, the latter appeared to have been too heavy with his first touch, but his second was sublime, as he guided the ball into the corner, from a tight angle.
St Pat’s did what they could to remain positive, and were denied a sure goal in the 70 minute when Harrison was equal to a close range Moore header from a Michael Smyth cross.
Just three minutes later, and Rangers virtually put the game to bed with a Kernohan free kick from 25 yards. The diving Fisher did reach it, but unfortunately for him, was only able to help it on its way to the top left hand corner.
The home side did respond, and had the potential to give their visitors an uncomfortable time in the final ten minutes, after Moore pulled one back with a header.
However, they weren’t able to redress the balance, and after substitute Tony McNally had one injury time shot saved and watched another fly over the bar, St Pat’s had to accept this just wasn’t to be their day.
Defeated manager Ciaran Smyth said: “We were missing a few key players, through injury and suspension, but I still felt we had enough experience in the team to be tighter. Credit where its due, they came and got the win, but at the same time, if we had had certain other players available, it could have been a different game.
“I was happy with how we played, but Ards Rangers deserved to win... they took their chances and we didn’t. To a degree it’s maybe a blessing in disguise, as it means we can concentrate on going for the league title.
ST PAT’S YM
1 Paul Fisher: Conceded three, but made some good saves too. 6
2 Conor Allsop: Moved the ball well out of defence. 7
3 Mark Stevenson: Not a bad effort. 6
4 Aidan Mulvenna: A steady, physical display. 7
5 Keith Mulvenna: Did his best to hold things together. 7
6 Kevin Briggs: Decent, but room for improvement. 6
7 Eamon Lyndsay: Put in a fair shift. 7
8 Ciaran McManus: Good short passing and strong tackling. 8
9 James Moore: His consolation goal was of some comfort. 7
10 Joe Thompson: First touch sometimes a little eager, but good crossing. 6
11 Michael Smyth: Good levels of energy and pressing. 7
12 Patrick Turley: On for McManus, 78
14 Tony McNally: On for Briggs, 62
15 Seamus Fitzimmons: On for Lyndsay, 78
1 David Harrison: Kept a high standard between the sticks. 8
2 Neill Melville: Got forward well. 8
3 Sammy Wallace: First to the ball almost every time. 8
4 Gary Brown: Steady and assured. 7
5 Jamie Patterson: A disciplined performance from the skipper. 7
6 Willy McBurney: Didn’t let much past him. Impressive. 9
7 Jonny Hall: Always looked capable of creating or scoring. 9
8 Simon Moffatt: Kept himself busy in midfield. 7
9 Daryll Kernohan: Deadly finishing got him a well-deserved brace. 9
10 Daley Carnduff: Plenty of quick thinking and movement. 8
11 Jonny Roy: Showed good awareness. 7
12 Ricky Rutherford: On for Kernohan, 88
14 Marc Roy: On for Melville, 60
15 Gary Sharratt: On for Carnduff, 60
Man of the Match: Jonny Hall (Ards Rangers) Lively and creative throughout. A constant threat to St Pat’s.
Moment of the match: Jonny Hall’s 64 minute goal was the pick of the bunch – he looked to have ruined the opportunity for himself, but recovered well to score.
Save of the Match: David Harrison’s reflex save from James Moore’s close range header in the 70 minute.
Blooper of the match: St Pat’s biggest mistake was simply not hitting the target enough.
Belfast Telegraph Digital